Cabbage is grows best when the heads mature in cool weather, so plan to harvest before the onset of hot weather in summer or in the fall.
For a spring-planted crop, buy transplants at a nursery or start seedlings indoors 50 to 60 days before the last spring frost date.
Late-maturing varieties are best for fall harvests.
Plant them in early summer in the North, mid- to late summer in central and southern areas. Chinese cabbages are best grown for a fall harvest.
A week or so before planting, mix three or four shovelfuls of aged manure or compost into the planting bed for each transplant you'll set out, or use a balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-10 at the rate of 3 to 4 pounds per 100 square feet.
For spring crops, set out well-hardened cabbage transplants in the garden 2 or 3 weeks before the last expected frost date. Space early-maturing cabbages 12 to 15 inches apart, either in beds or single rows; later types, 18 to 24 inches apart.
For fall crops, sow seeds directly in the garden. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep, 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
Sow seeds for Chinese cabbage in the fall 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and 3 inches apart.
When cabbages are 4 to 5 inches tall, thin or transplant to stand 18 to 24 inches apart; Chinese cabbages should be thinned to 12 to 15 inches apart.
About a month after transplanting, side-dress cabbages with about 1 pound of 10-10-10 or its equivalent per 25 feet of single row. Side-dress Chinese cabbages with 1/2 pound of 10-10-10 or its equivalent per 15-foot single row when plants are 4 to 6 inches tall, and every 3 weeks thereafter.
Apply a thick layer of mulch to retain moisture.
See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common cabbage pests such as aphids, root maggots, cabbageworms, and cabbage loopers.
Start harvesting when cabbage heads are firm and softball size.
Cut the head from the stem with a sharp knife and discard the outer leaves.
Begin harvesting Chinese cabbage when the leaves are 10 inches tall and still loose or wait until the heads are formed.
To keep cabbage as long as possible, harvest late in the season before hard freezes and keep heads in a cold, moist area.